Yesterday, on our way home from a vacation in Hualien, Floyd and I drove through beautiful Taroko National Park. Known as the Grand Canyon of Taiwan, Taroko Gorge is one of the top vacation spots in Taiwan.
We had been there before when my parents came to visit a couple years ago (you can see pictures of that in my other blog post here), but we didn’t really get to go hiking at that time, because there had been an earthquake a few days before and almost all the trails were closed off due to landslides.
We didn’t have as much time on this trip, but we did park the car and walk around a little in an area that had been inaccessible the last time. It was nice to see some scenery we hadn’t seen before, even though it was mostly just from the side of the road.
This area is called Swallow Grotto because of the many swallows that make their homes in the holes in the rock. You can read an explanation of how the holes were formed in the sign below.
The day was overcast and the lighting wasn’t the best, so unfortunately a lot of my pictures didn’t turn out all that great. The gorge was a lot more impressive in real life, but hopefully you can at least get an idea of how beautiful Taroko is!
It would have been fun to actually hike along one of the trails, but we were short on time and we would have had to buy a permit to do so anyway. So we contented ourselves with walking along next to the road. There were sharp drop-offs just to our left, with sheer cliffs stretching down to the canyon floor hundreds of feet below.
Warning signs were everywhere. The national park service wasn’t leaving anything to chance! We didn’t have safety helmets, which we would have had to borrow in another part of the national park (most of the tourists we saw did), but fortunately there weren’t any rockfalls while we were in the area. 🙂
It’s hard to get a clear idea of the scale just by looking at a picture, but some of those boulders in the river bed are the size of buildings!
In many places, the road passed through tunnels, often narrowing down to one lane to squeeze through. This made our journey home much more exciting! Many of the tunnels were too long or curved to see the other end when we went in. We just had to pray there would be no cars coming from the other direction before we made it through!
Sometimes a roof had been built over the road (as you can see on the left) to protect it from rockfalls, which are extremely common in this earthquake-prone destination for typhoons.
The drive home to Taichung took about six hours, and much of the way we were surrounded by beautiful scenery like this. Some of those mountain curves did get a little scary when the thick fog rolled in (especially when oncoming vehicles didn’t always keep to their side of the road), but God answered our prayers for safety and we made it back without incident.
We even saw two monkeys, one crossing the road ahead of us in the gorge, one sitting by the side of the road further on, though unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to take any pictures of them.
The gorge-ous drive was a fitting end to a fun Hualien vacation!
It took about two and a half hours to drive up from Taichung, counting a few pit stops and wrong turns. It was a beautiful blue sunny day, and we enjoyed some great mountain views along the way. It’s always nice to get out of the smog and be reminded that there’s more to Taiwan than city. For the last part of the journey, we drove through thick green forest, with strikingly bright poinsettias growing wild beside the road. Huge spider webs stretched from tree to tree or from branch to ground, but we saw no other wildlife.
Once we were up at our destination, we enjoyed a picnic lunch beside a slow green river, near a few restaurants, gift shops, cabins, and a tourist information center. From there we decided to hike to the “Blue Dragon Waterfall” a mile or two away. (I hesitate to even use the word “hike”, since we were on a paved path the whole way, reminiscent of some of the so-called “hiking trails” I remember in Yosemite. But it was a pretty walk, in any case, with the river on one side and forest on the other.)
It was kind of fun walking through the misty woods. You can imagine our disappointment, though, when we got to the grand viewpoint, with the thunder of falling water all around, and were unable to get even the tiniest glimpse of the waterfall through the fog!
When we returned to base once again, we decided to enjoy the water for just a little longer before we had to leave. We rented two paddle boats for half an hour or so, and Floyd and three of the others had a great time pedaling up and down the river, racing each other, feeding the ducks, and switching boats mid-stream. I ran along the bank, meanwhile, and took pictures and video.